AVON LAKE — The top-seeded Elyria Pioneers withstood an individual offensive assault by Midview senior Gabby Shackelford before finally coming up with a positive plate performance themselves in rallying for a 6-3 victory over the No. 4-seeded Middies in a Division I district semifinal Wednesday.
Shackelford, who will be playing for Cleveland State next year, drove in all three runs for Midview (19-7), the first two on singles and the last on a monster home run over the left-field fence.
“Shack’s been doing that for four years,” Middies coach Mike Ives said. “I knew she’d hit a home run today. Coming over here I said she always shows up in big games.”
Elyria (23-4) found itself trailing 3-1 in the fifth inning — April Howser drove in Keearah Williams for a run in the third — and mounted a furious 10-batter rally.
Williams led off with a double to the center-field wall, Macy Taylor followed with a bunt single and Howser was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Designated player Cassie Miller tied the game with a one-out double to left-center, driving in Taylor and Howser, and starting pitcher Isabella St. Peter gave the Pioneers the lead with a single past second to score Maycee Godbolt and Madison Olszewski, who was pinch running for Miller, for a 5-3 lead.
“I came in the box knowing I had to get on, get the runners scored because that’s my job — that’s my main job on our team, to hit,” Miller said. “So I came into the box knowing not to swing at a change-up because I was just going to get out. So I waited on mine … and once I got to 3-2, I seen my pitch and I went for it. It was a gap shot.”
“At that moment I just wanted to get a hit to score my teammates and it felt good to finally get a hit because my first two at-bats weren’t that good and I finally came through,” St. Peter said.
The Pioneers scored their final run when Kerrigan Williams doubled to left-center and St. Peter came home when the relay throw went into the Pioneers’ dugout.
“Cassie Miller with a big double, Izzie with a big (hit) and we made some decent defensive plays,” Elyria coach Ken Fenik said. “I made a mistake and pitched to Shackelford — that was on me — and thank goodness they picked me up on that one and got those runs back the next inning.”
The massive blast by Shackelford was the last hit for the Middies. St. Peter sat down the next nine Midview hitters, including striking out the side in the sixth inning.
“She really buckled down,” Fenik said. “After she gave up that home run I told the entire team, ‘Listen girls, that was on me. You guys need to pick me up.’ That was not on Izzie, that was my call. She put it where I wanted it and (Shackelford) jacked it. I thought Izzie did a nice job just letting that go by the wayside and the last nine outs she was right on.”
Midview starting pitcher Marcella McMahon did a good job keeping the Elyria batters guessing. The Pioneers stranded runners in three of the first four innings.
“We came in with a plan and I thought we executed it for four or five innings and then they just found some holes,” Ives said. “I’m very proud of the kids. The kids gave us everything they had. When you face the defending state champs you have to play for 21 outs and you have to get all 21 outs.
“This is a really tough bracket to get out of and we all knew that going in. That’s the best-coached team in the state of Ohio. (Fenik’s) done an amazing job. We had one bad inning … and you can’t have a bad inning against that team.”
The Middies were without a pair of starters — third baseman Katie Weaver and catcher Ella Leonard — due to injuries, but the replacements stepped up nicely. Freshman Emma Barnes, filling in for Weaver at third, had singles in her first two at-bats.
“We knew they were a good hitting team, and a couple times there I thought about maybe switching up pitchers to a little bit different speed, but I didn’t do it,” Fenik said. “(But we got) a bunch of key hits there, Izzie did a nice job … just a super team win.”